Spring 15 Session 2 (2/11/2014): Fake It Til You Make It

As discussed in your syllabus and in session one, the theme of the course content this semester is “success,” and more specifically, what is it and how do we achieve it?  Each week, we are exploring material from writers, scientists, philosophers, and so on, each of whom contribute ideas to our conversation around these questions.

The topic of session two was “Fake It Til You Make It,” in reference to Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, in which she teaches us how “tiny tweaks” involving our bodies can lead to major positive changes in our lives. Amy Cuddy enhances her talk by contributing her personal “success story,” in which she explains how, in spite of expectations to the contrary, she recovered from a devastating head trauma and went on to become a Harvard professor.  Her ultimate claim is that, when it comes to a situation in which your own self-doubt threatens to undermine your success, not only can you “fake it til you make it,” you can “fake it til you become it.”

We used this material to practice our first writing skill: Engaging with an Audiovisual Text.


Warm Up: Marjorie started us off with a laughter yoga exercise inspired by Amy Cuddy’s talk, in which we used laughter and movement to increase our focus and energy. To read more about the practice of laughter yoga and its developer, Dr. Madan Kataria, check out http://www.laughteryoga.org/english.

Reviewing Today’s Topic: After the laughter yoga exercise, we transitioned to talking about today’s academic writing skill: engaging with a text.

A text, in this class, is anything that we write about. In most cases, it would be a written text (e.g. a book), a visual text (e.g. a photo), or an audiovisual text (e.g. a movie or a lecture).  While we’ll be focusing on written texts for the majority of our time together, today we discussed how to engage with an audiovisual text.

Our discussion included reviewing how an audiovisual text is different than a written text. For example, while you can stop and re-read a textbook chapter, you usually can’t stop a live lecture. So how do you “engage” in this setting in a way that will enable you to write about it later on?

When you are asked to write about a text, the first step to finding an interesting angle lies in the reading – or in this case the listening/watching.  To find aspects of the audiovisual text that most engage your interest, start by trying the following strategies:

  • Get Curious.We are often taught to approach a text from a stance of “interrogation.”  This sets us up to find only what is wrong with the text.  It is easy to attack a text – we are inclined to be critical.  It is more difficult, and more skillful, to approach the text with curiosity.  If you can “get curious” about a text, you have a better chance of noticing more about it.
  • Practice listening well. Another way to think about “engaging” with an audiovisual text is listening.  Try listening as if: 1) you don’t know anything about the topic (even if you do), 2) the speaker has something very important to say, 3) you’re receiving a gift from someone you respect.
  • Take notes. Do your best to capture the major messages, key terms, and supporting details on paper.  This practice can help you maintain your focus and retain the information.

There are many different methods of taking notes during a lecture. If you have one that works for you – excellent. We reviewed a simple two-column method in class.

Practice: After discussing how to engage with an audiovisual text, we practiced the skill by listening to the TED talk that I referred to earlier. As many of you found, it is difficult to listen well and also take notes. This is a skill that requires practice – you get better as you go along.

TIP: If you encounter significant challenges, to the point where you cannot absorb information while taking notes, you might consider asking for an accommodation from your school – specifically for permission to audio record lectures.

Another significant challenge involved in listening to a lecture is capturing your own reactions to the material. Because the dual tasks of noting major points and comprehending the lecture absorb most of our attention, noting our own reactions might go by the wayside. One way to capture your reactions while they are fresh is to do a freewrite journal for 15 minutes after class. We also practiced this today.

Preparing for Next Class

Next class we’ll be talking about how to engage with a written text. To prepare for next week, please do the following:

1)      Read the handout from Hunter College entitled “Invention: Annotating a Text” (pages 1-2 of the packet) and review the two versions of annotation attached to the handout (pages 3-7). You can download the handout here:

WS S15 Session 2 HW

2)      Read the article “But They’re Happening to You at the Wrong Time” (Burles & Thomas, 2012).  Practice annotating the introduction section (pages 672-673) using one of the annotation methods depicted in the Hunter College handout.

photovoice article hw

3)      Bring both the Hunter College handout and Burles & Thomas article to class next week.


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